Путеводитель по Кипру: достопримечательности, маршруты, путешествия, экскурсии, фотографии, карты

19 June − 3 July 1727. Monastery of St. Mamas. Mórfou (Güzelyurt) Печать
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The most beautiful monastery in Cyprus

After spending a week at the Kykkos Monastery, Barsky and his companion set off for Mórfou [1]. The journey there on foot took a day, perhaps a little more. It can still be done today, by crossing the green line at the checkpoint in the village of Astromeritis. On 19 June they were already at the Monastery of St. Mamas, which in the opinion of the traveller was the most beautiful monastery in Cyprus. He describes in detail the architecture of the monastery and the church of St. Mamas, in which the saint’s tomb is located, and expresses doubt over whether the relics of the martyr are still there, in view of the island’s difficult political history. Today it is believed that at least part of the relics remain in the church, though it is impossible to verify this, since the marble tomb is closed.

Having paid tribute to the architecture and the relics, Barsky turns to the political situation, which local inhabitants appear to have explained to him. In 1727 Mórfou was home to both Turks and Greeks, more or less equal in number, a situation that had developed not long before Barsky’s visit. Earlier the Turks had only passed through, stopping here to rest from their journey. Having no mosque in Mórfou, they initially wanted to expropriate the monastery of St. Mamas for this purpose, but the abbot saved the monastery by building a mosque for them at his own expense. Barsky does not specify whether this was the same abbot that received him or his predecessor. The abbot of the monastery, who was probably the source of this information, treated the travellers to lunch.

After spending half a day at the monastery, having rested and worshipped St. Mamas, Barsky and his companion set off for Lefkosia, where they needed to collect a departure paper from the Ottoman chancery, since without this document they would not be able to leave the island.

barsky Having tarried (as I earlier recounted) in this monastery for a week, on 19 June we set off for the monastery of Saint Mamas, which is found at a distance of one day's journey by foot from the Kykkos Monastery, or slightly more.

This monastery stands on a very level and cheerful field, close to the mountains from the east side, one mile from the seacoast from the west; its arrangement is reminiscent of a town with four low walls, in length and width fairly extended, it has two big gates like city gates, such as can accommodate the highest chariot; it is wholly built from large stones white in colour, cut to one size, in a smooth and beautiful technique, like the church of St. Sophia in the town of Lefkosia, of which I wrote earlier.

монастырь св Маманта 1727

The church of the holy martyr Mamas there is of such remarkable construction, like no single church that Christians possess, the most beautiful in the whole of Cyprus; fairly long in height, length and width, inside it is supported by ten large pillars; it has three altars, like in the above described monastery [Kykkos – Y.B.], but the liturgy is served only at the main central altar; the floor is beautifully paved with stone slabs; it has twenty or even more windows, seven doors, five main ones among them; the church is crowned with one high dome with eight windows.

Церковь св. Мамаса

The church is truly beautiful in everything, by the right wall stands an icon of the holy martyr Mamas and a marble tomb, where, some say, his relics are found; others claim that they are not there, which is more likely, since in the Turkish lands in our time complete relics can be found in few places. And may you also know that myrrh appears on the tomb; the faithful are smeared with it and receive healing of their ailments.


The church stands apart amid the monastery, not touching other buildings; around it are cells, one above another, like a crown. This monastery was once, during the time of Christianity, rich and had many monks, now it is poor and there are few monks in it, as it stands in one village, amid the noise of the people, not far from the city, where the Turks live side-by-side with Christians and levy heavy tributes, envying the beautiful building.

One day the Hagarenes [2] wanted to take this monastery away from the monks and turn it into a mosque for their prayers, since at that time Turks did not live in that village, but came from the town or, passing by on the road, rested or spent the night there out of need, and for this, not having there their own shrine, wanted to take the church into their own hands, so that, if it were God’s will, it would be convenient for them, but until now God, through the prayers of the holy great martyr Mamas, has not allowed such an infringement. The abbot of that monastery pleaded with the Hagarenes, so as not to hand over the church to them, and promised to build them a new shrine, which he did (Lord save him), and so freed the monastery from the hands of the infidels. There we, after worshipping the saint’s tomb, lingered for half a day, for the sake of rest, and the abbot treated us to a banquet; and from there the very same day we came once again to the above mentioned town of Lefkosia, for the needs of my companion and the procurement of a Turkish document, called a mukhurtyagat [some kind of distorted Turkish term, this is how it appears in the text – Y.B.], that is, a departure sheet, without which nobody, whether of their own or foreign, can leave Cyprus.

Stranstvovaniya Vasiliya Grigorovicha-Barskogo po svyatym mestam Vostoka s 1723 po 1747 / Edited by N. Barsukov. Part 1. 1723–1727 (St. Petersburg, 1885), 404–405.



Coordinates: 35.201000 32.990400 − Monastery of St. Mamas in Mórfou




[1] The Monastery of St. Mamas is indeed very beautiful, it is a regular ensemble, built to a plan, with clear forms and well-reading volumes. The surviving buildings can be dated to the late 15th or early 16th century. The emphasis on the beauty of the building may be connected to the name of the village where it is located. Mórfou (Μόρφου) is close to ómorfos (όμορφος), which in translation from the Greek means “beautiful”. The Turkish name Güzelyurt has a similar meaning: “beautiful town”. As for the political situation and why Barsky suddenly decided to go into such detail on this matter, there may be several reasons. Firstly, he was interested not only in the condition of religious buildings, but in the status of people who professed Orthodoxy. Secondly, the very fact of an abbot of an Orthodox monastery saving his monastery by building a mosque is remarkable in itself. Thirdly, he may have been intentionally gathering information on the political situation, though for whom precisely he does not indicate.

In the drawing Barsky depicted not only the monastic ensemble and the direction of east in the form of the sun, but also the situation of Christian and Muslim dwellings. “Christians” is written in Greek under the north wall, in the left part of the drawing, above the single-storey houses by the west wall is written: “Turks”. Barsky signed his sketches in both Russian and Greek. In this case the title of the sketch is in Russian, all other inscriptions – in Greek.

[2] Hagarene – from the name Hagar, slave girl of the forefather Abraham, who bore him a son – Ishmael and cast out into the desert after Sarah gave birth to a son, Isaac. Collective definition of Muslims in medieval literature.


Literature, links

Zykova N. V., Palomnichestvo na Kipr pravoslavny (po stopam Vasiliya Grigorovicha-Barskogo), (Larnaca, Izdatelstvo Russkogo pravoslavnogo obrazovatelnogo tsentra, 2013), 32–38.

Bliznyuk S.V., Leonty Makhera i ego khronika “Povest o sladkoi zemle Kipr” / Translated from the Cypriot dialect of medieval Greek, introductory essay and commentary by S.V. Bliznyuk (Moscow, 2018), 382 (on the women‘s (!) monastery of St. Mamas 10 km from Nicosia), 62–64 (on the legend of St. Mamas, the transfer of his relics to Cyprus and the founding of the monastery at Mórfou ), 127, 265, 305–307, 379, 408, 447, 448 (on Mórfou ).

Hein E., Jakovlević A., Kleidt B., Zypern – Byzantinische Kirchen und Klöster. Mosaiken und Fresken (Ratingen Melina-Verlag, 1996), 140-142, 196 (bibliography).

Gobham C.D., Excerpta Cypria (Cambridge, 1908), 319

Παπαγεωργίου Α. Μάμα Άγιου εκκλησία, Μόρφου, Μεγάλη Κυπριακή Εγκυκλοπαίδεια, Vol. 9 (Νικοσία 1998), 287-289

Meadows I., Efthyvoulou L., Barsky’s Cyprus Revisited 1726-1989 (Nicosia, 1994), 89f, Il. 27.

See also this article on St. Mamas in the Orthodox Encyclopaedia.


© Yuliya Buzykina
English translation by Alastair Gill